08 July 2014

Kittel Blasts Our Time!

Marcel Kittel has done it again!  He's won three of the first four Tour de France stages.  Below is a comparison between Kittel's winning time and our prediction.
  • Stage 4:  3h 36' 39" (actual), 3h 49' 16" (prediction), 12' 37" slow (5.82% error)
A decade ago, I would have thought our error was fine.  Now, I think it's too large!  I was unable to watch any of the stage.  I did, however, see reports of 20 kph (12.4 mph) tailwinds in a few places and crosswinds in other places.  There appeared to be a tailwind component for much of the race.  Those who watched the race will surely let me know how much wind played a role in today's action.  Kittel's average speed is given below.
  • Stage 4:  12.578 m/s (45.28 kph or 28.14 mph)
That's a great speed, but not so large as to raise eyebrows.  To give you a feeling for just how sensitive times are to environmental conditions like wind, if we add a 4 kph (2.5 mph) horizontal tailwind to the entirety of Stage 4, we are slow by only 4".  That's all it takes!  We need to research the stage a little more to see if wind played a role or if Kittel was just flat-out amazing.  We know the latter is true!

Tomorrow's 155.5-km (96.6-mi) flat stage begins just across the border into Belgium in Ypres.  After a bit to the northeast, the stage mostly takes riders south, finishing in Arenberg Porte du Hainaut.  What makes Stage 5 so fun is that is has nine sections of cobblestones in the latter half of the stage.  Cobblestone roads make up a total of 15.4 km (9.57 mi) of the final 68.5 km (42.6 mi) of the ride into Arenberg Porte du Hainaut; that's more than 22% of that last 68.5 km.  We will be anxious to see how the cobblestones affect racing.  Below is our prediction.
  • Stage 5:  3h 34' 03" (prediction)
Despite winning three of the first four stages, Kittel sits in 147th place at 19' 50" behind Vincenzo Nibali's, whose great ride in Stage 2 keeps the yellow jersey on his back.

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